Sunday People – NHS turned away dad 7 times on day he took his own life

A deeply depressed ­pensioner killed himself after being turned away by NHS medics SEVEN TIMES that day.

Peter Franklin, who jumped to his death from a motorway bridge, was even told he would be arrested if he returned to the hospital again.

Peter, 67, who suffered from ­crippling anxiety and depression, went to the A&E department at Maidstone Hospital, Kent, five times – once directly after a failed suicide bid.

But staff repeatedly ruled it was safe to send him home and twice he was escorted off the premises by security.

Peter was also seen twice by staff at nearby mental health clinic Priority House, who told him they could not see him for ten days.

Last night his wife Lynne told us: “Peter was crying out for help and he was failed so badly. He was treated more like a criminal than a patient with a life-threatening illness.”

Lynne, 60, added: “It was only at his inquest we realised how many ­opportunities there were to save him. I can’t imagine how distressed he must have felt in those last moments.”

Daughter Katie, 23, said: “My dad will never walk me up the aisle and he’ll never see my children grow up.

“It’s made worse by the fact his death could have been prevented.”

The father of four’s first suicide bid came after he was sent home by A&E nurses for the fourth time.

Retired factory worker Peter asked a taxi driver to take him to a bridge on the M20. But the driver restrained him and took him back to the hospital, where he told staff about the suicide bid and pleaded with them to help.

Nurses phoned Priority House, where senior nurse Christine Watts ruled Peter should be sent home.

At the same time Peter’s family, who were desperately trying to locate him, received a call from the hospital ­advising them the police would be called if he attended A&E again.

But Peter, who was also father to Graham, 52, Helen, 51, and Neil, 44, from a previous marriage, had already driven himself back to the bridge and jumped to his death.

Admin worker Lynne recalled: “He had made attempts on his life before but they always seemed like cries for help. On that day we now realise he really wanted to die and it tears us apart to know that no one apart from the taxi driver wanted to help him.

“Having to sit Katie down and tell her that her dad had died was one of the worst things I’ve ever had to do.”

Lynne recalled how she met Peter at a singles night in the late eighties. They married in 1993. She said: “I fell in love with him ­because he was the life and soul of the party. He was the last person you’d expect to suffer from any kind of ­mental health problem.”

But Peter was hit hard by the death of his mum and developed severe ­anxiety in his early forties.

His panic attacks were so bad he often thought he was having a heart attack. He eventually took early ­retirement because of his ill health.

Lynne said: “He was the eldest of seven and they all looked to him for advice. I don’t think he allowed himself to grieve for her. He thought he had to be strong.

“I think that is what triggered the anxiety. He was given medication, but no one seemed to want to get to the root of the problem. He wasn’t given many options in terms of therapy.

“Despite his illness he was still a wonderful dad and husband. All of Katie’s friends adored him.”

But Peter’s mental health worsened significantly in the three years prior to his death in August 2013.

In July 2010, he was admitted to hospital after taking an overdose. Peter regularly told ­doctors he had suicidal thoughts and his medical records described him as a “significant” suicide risk.

Lynne admitted: “It put a huge strain on our relationship. Sometimes I couldn’t have him in the house ­because I was so worried about the effect it would have on Katie.”

In the eight months before his death, Peter attended A&E around 40 times, expressing suicidal thoughts. He tried to overdose twice in June 2013. It finally became too much for him on August 19 that year.

He first went to A&E at Maidstone Hospital just before 5am, saying he could not breathe.

Notes show he was not examined by a doctor but sent home in a taxi. He reappeared around three hours later, again in a distressed state.

When nurses told him he did not need treatment, he told them he planned to crash his car on the way home. He was removed by security.

At 10am, he went to Priority House but the care coordinator said his condition was not severe enough to keep him in. He called another ­ambulance just before 2pm which took him back to A&E. Staff noted he was suicidal but a consultant argued he showed no signs of distress and arranged a GP appointment before sending him home again.

In desperation, Peter returned to Priority House at 4pm.

He was advised by another staff member that an appointment had been set up for the following week.

Fifteen minutes later he called an ambulance which took him back to A&E. Three hours later he was sent home after staff described him as ­“disruptive” and called security.

Peter was returned to the hospital by the taxi driver around an hour later after trying to jump from the bridge.

Tragically, just hours later, he finally succeeded in taking his own life.

Hundreds of mourners attended his funeral, where performing arts ­graduate Katie sang the Luther Vandross hit Dance With My Father.

After his inquest Lynne, of Meopham, Kent, sued Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Foundation Trust and Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership.

She was represented by medical ­negligence lawyer Nick Fairweather and this week won a £20,000 settlement which she will give to mental health charities.

Lynne is also campaigning for mental health patients who attend A&E to be given a psychiatric liaison in a bid to prevent similar tragedies.

Nick said: “To learn from Peter’s case we have to imagine someone with a life-threatening physical illness in distress presenting at A&E and being repeatedly turned away. We need parity of treatment for mental health patients.”

A spokesman for Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust said: “We have fostered closer working relationships with partner organisations and make every effort to ensure our processes of ­communication are effective.”

A spokesman for Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership said: “After Peter’s sad death an investigation was carried out and action taken.

“It is vital that we work with our ­healthcare partners to provide safe mental health services and essential immediate care for those in crisis.”

The above has been reproduced with the kind permission of The Sunday People.